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Avengers #81

Posted: Saturday, May 1, 2004
By: Ray Tate



"Lionheart of Avalon"--Part Five

Writer: Chuck Austen
Artists: Olivier Coipel(p), Andy Lanning(i), Chris Sotomeyer(c)
Publisher: DC

While this issue of the Avengers shows the drawbacks of a chapter play story with a too abrupt ending, Chuck Austen, the ever maligned Uncanny X-Men writer, displays remarkable affinity for the Avengers and the comprehension to understand what makes a super-hero story work.

The opening shows Cap being open, suave and cool. The scene subtly illustrated by Olivier Copiel and Andy Lanning, prepares the reader for a surprising end-twist which involves Cap and the rest of the Avengers taking responsibility for their actions. This is a nice contrast to Cap's anger over the sacrifice of an innocent for his life in a previous part of the story. Taken together the chapters show two different sides of the man.

The scene shifts to the resolution of one of last issue's cliffhangers. This double page spread of the Wasp as Giant Woman could have been utter sexploitation. Instead, Mr. Austen through witty dialogue and Copiel through a mastery of proportion and scale imbue charm to the scene. The effect is not one to instill prurience but to astonish.

The astonishment turns to humor both seen and unseen between Iron Man and Jan, and later the Scarlet Witch and Captain Britain. Austen unlike other authors who see the Wasp's power to merely shrink as useless shows that she more than any other Avenger is the point man when it comes to disasters.

A sly segue at the margins transports the reader to the main plot of the tale. As Wanda and Captain Britain follow Morganne Le Fey's knight, the latter hero winningly attempts to use her staff to beat out the dents and introduce a few new ones in the knight's armor before they land at Le Fey's feet.

The battle ensues cleverly, and Mr. Austen provides a motive for the birth of a new Captain Britain that makes perfect sense. Though the concept of Thor's arrows threw me. Where in Avengers or Thor continuity is Thor's archery skill mentioned? I do not doubt Mr. Austen's research skills since this tale ripples with all sorts of continuity nods. I am just asking anybody to fill me in from whence those arrows came.

Even the epilogue of "Lion of Avalon" is worth reading. The dialogue between Britain and Wanda show a depth of personality and kindness. I like also how they speak about Jan while she's not present. Friends talk about other absent friends all the time. It's habitual, and added here; this quirk of humanity gives the section of story a natural, warm feel. Sweetness can be found in the illustration of the two Jennys: one fast asleep and cradled in titanic arms that can rip a tank into two. Very few readers cannot help be moved by the final splash page.



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